Roman Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa Spared Criminal Charges by Enrolling In Diversion Program
Bay Cities Newswire reported yesterday that:
1/20/06 8:25 PST
SANTA ROSA (BCN)
The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese said Bishop Daniel Walsh intends to enroll in and successfully complete a diversion program that will spare him from criminal charges regarding his failure to immediately report a priest's alleged lewd conduct with an underage boy.
Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua announced this morning that Walsh will be able to enroll in a counseling diversion program for first-time misdemeanor offenders.
Those offenders are referred to the Adult Diversion Services program run by the California Human Development Corporation, Passalacqua said. If Walsh successfully completes the four-month counseling diversion program, no formal criminal charges will be filed, Passalacqua said.
Passalacqua said Walsh admitted wrong doing, has no prior record and is eligible to enroll in the program.
The district attorney's office investigated whether Walsh failed to immediately report to authorities in April alleged admissions by Rev. Francisco Xavier Ochoa that he kissed an underage boy on the lips before the boy danced and strip-teased in his apartment after a Sunday mass in April.
An investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department disclosed alleged improper sexual conduct by Ochoa with two other boys. Ochoa, 67, former priest at the St. Francis of Solano Church in Sonoma, is believed to have fled to Mexico in around May 2.
The diocese informed the county's Child Protective Services three days after Ochoa's alleged confession on April 28. The diocese was criticized for the delay that enabled Ochoa to leave Sonoma County where he now faces 11 criminal charges and a civil lawsuit that names eight alleged victims since 1985.
"It is clear that Bishop Walsh should have known of his obligations to immediately report the matter involving Francisco Ochoa,'' Passalacqua said. He added the diocese receives training and even previously established its own protocol on the mandated reporting law.
Santa Rosa Diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak said Walsh intends to enroll in the program and to successfully complete it.
Frontczak said the program is individually designed and does not require Walsh to enter a plea of any kind.